Hitting the Target
Tonight I want to share something very dear to my heart as your pastor. This is not so much a sermon as an introduction to a series of sermons which deal with rediscovering the purpose of the church.
What are we aiming at?
Imagine for a moment that I, as pastor, gave special permission for you to bring one of those Nerf guns into the sanctuary and I ask you to look up at the screen and hit the bullseye. What would your first question be? Which one?
I think that’s what happens a lot of time in church---when you ask, “What are we, as the church of Jesus Christ, trying to accomplish? What is the target?” Nobody is sure. Those who are sure have different targets. “We’re trying to reach the lost…we’re aiming to preach and teach the Bible…we’re ministering to hurting people…we’re supposed to be taking care of our own peopel” Either nobody sees the target, or we can’t seem to agree on which targets are where we should aim for. So we fulfill the prophecy of a wise person who once observed if you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it.
On the other hand, what could happen if we all saw the target clearly, if we all agreed on what we trying to hit, and we all worked together to hit that target?
Tonight I want to talk to you about finding the target for the church—the purpose for which the church exists---the purpose for which Gray’s Chapel FWB church exists. I want to talk to you about why it’s important to narrow down our purpose? Who determines our purpose? Most importantly—what are the purposes, the target we should be aiming for? But first, let’s pray.
Read 1 Cor. 1:10.
The epistle of 1 Corinthians could have been written to the church of today. The same issues Paul addresses still crop up: disunity, immorality, arguments over worship styles---the same problems we still deal with in the 21st century church. The words of this verse address a fundamental problem: everybody is aiming at a different target. Paul pleads: speak the same thing….be perfectly joined together in the same mind and same judgment….Another translation puts it this way:
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
You see, the church in Corinth was filled with people who were all aiming at different targets, going in different—sometimes opposite—directions. Paul knew until they all got on the same page, they would never get anywhere.
They needed to get together on doctrine, but also on how to live that doctrine out. They needed to agree on what God called them to do as a church.
They had to find the right target, and agree to aim their hearts and minds in the same direction. They had to be unified in their purpose.
Being united in purpose is important for every church, not just the Corinthian church. Jesus told us a house divided cannot stand, and the same is true of a church. An essential element of a healthy church is that every member is focused on the same purpose, the same mission, the same target.
General George Patton would often ask soldiers, “What is your mission?” Being able to articulate clearly the current mission was the most important piece of information a soldier could carry in combat. [i]
I think it’s just as important for a church to all be united in their purpose and their mission.
This is the main idea in a book published several years ago which was written by a preacher named Rick Warren entitled The Purpose Driven Church. Some of what I want to share with you tonight is adapted from his book, and I don’t apologize for that, because I believe he got his ideas from the Bible. I want to share from the Bible and Rick why a common purpose, or target, is essential to the health of a church.
1) A common purpose allows concentration. (Luke 9:57-62) Jesus is stressing the
importance of being focused on following Him. Focus is also important for His church.
Purpose helps a church focus. Instead of trying to focus on doing everything, you narrow your focus on what you should be doing. Many churches, including Gray’s Chapel church, are busy with a lot of activity, and that is great. We ought to be about our Father’s business. But if you’re not careful, you can try to do everything and end up accomplishing very little as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned. Jesus doesn’t call us just to stay busy—He calls His church to focus their time and energy on doing what really matters---what lines up with His purpose for the church.
2) A common purpose fosters cooperation.
2 Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with Him…The work Christ has for His church is a cooperative effort between God, you, and the rest of His church to get His will done on earth as it is in heaven.
Purpose helps a church work together. Imagine a symphony orchestra full of professional musicians, all playing their best, with only one small problem: none of them are playing the same song. It would sound horrible! Beautiful music only comes when there is harmony, when the musicians all play their part.
The same thing is true of the church. When everybody is doing their own thing, eventually everything falls to pieces. People get frustrated, angry, and many even quit the band altogether. But when everybody is aiming at the same target—a common purpose---there is harmony, and cooperation. We get a lot more done together than we could ever do separately.
3) A common purpose enables evaluation. It’s hard to know if you’re doing a good job when
you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be doing. Purpose helps you evaluate what you do. How do we know if the church is doing what Jesus wants us to do? Clarifying the target helps us see how close we are to the bulls’ eye.
But the next question is: who decides what the purpose of the church is? The answer, of course, is Jesus does. After all, it is Jesus Who said
Matthew 16:18 I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Jesus is the Founder of the church, and He is the One Who gives the church its purpose.
Not you, not me, not our ancestors, not our denomination but Jesus. It would be foolish for us to get together and try to combine all of our ideas about what the purpose of the church should be and then vote, because ultimately, as Paul observes in
Col 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
If Christ is not the Head, don’t call it a church. Call it a social club, or a religious organization, or but don’t call it a church. Our job is not to create the purpose of our church, but to recognize Jesus’ purpose for our church.
Having said that, I also want to add while nobody but Jesus can formulate the purpose of the church, we can personalize the purpose of the church. We can put Jesus’ purpose into our own words which can help us understand and communicate His purposes for Gray’s Chapel. In other words, we can express His purpose for our church in many different ways, as long as we are expressing His purpose, and not just our own opinions.
Which brings up the all- important question: what is the purpose of the church? Out of all the words of Jesus recorded in the Bible, how do you narrow down Jesus’ words about the purpose of the church? I’m a real basic kind of guy. I like to look for simple, easy, obvious answers to simple questions.
So when I think about Jesus’ purpose for the church, I think about 2 passages that I believe sum up what He expects out of all Christians. His purpose for the church is really a multiplied version of his purpose for each of us. So to keep it simple, let me suggest to you Jesus’ purpose for the church from two very familiar passages of Scripture: The Great Commandment in Mark 12:29-31 and the Great Commission Matt. 28:19-20. Let’s unpack these verses:
1) The purpose of the church is to worship God. Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
I don’t know if you will find a better definition of worship anywhere in the Bible. Worship is not just what you do, or a place you go—worship must come from a heart of love for the Lord.
Everything we do at church ought to be an expression of love for our Lord—from the songs we sing to the prayers we pray, to the money we put in the offering. This is why the church exists: to bring honor and glory to Christ.
2) The purpose of the church is to love others. Mark 12:31 …You shall love your neighbor
as yourself… In Luke 10, somebody follows up Jesus’ words here with a question Who is my neighbor to which Jesus replies with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and then adds go and do likewise. Jesus commands you and I to show love by ministering or showing the love of God to others. Serving the needy and serving each other is one way the church fulfills its purpose of loving others.
Another important way the church shows love is through fellowship.
I’m sure you heard about the kids who brought something symbolic of their family’s faith to school. The Jewish kid brought a star of David, the Catholic girl brought a rosary, and the Baptist boy brought a casserole dish.
I know for most Baptists fellowship=food, but there’s more to fellowship than just eating. Fellowship is building relationships with one another, learning to treat one another as members of the same family-God’s family. Promoting fellowship is another way the church fulfills its purpose to love one another.
3) The purpose of the church is to evangelize the world.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…
This is the most ignored command in the Bible. Upwards of 90% of Christians have never shared the plan of salvation with somebody else. Jesus told us to go, but we stay put.
Jesus gave His church this massive mission to make disciples of all nations. Evangelism may begin at home, but it cannot stop there. Jesus told His first followers in
Ac 1:8 …you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
The church---this church—our church---we have a part to play in winning the world, not just our neighbors. Christ wants each of us to be personally involved in winning the lost world to Him! His purpose for the church is to bring the Gospel to the world. There is no way you and I can ignore His mandate. That’s part of our purpose as His Body.
4) The purpose of the church is to lead believers to spiritual maturity.
Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…
You can sum up this verse by two words: education and edification.
The idea here involves not only the informing of a person’s mind, but the transformation of a person’s character. Yes, it involves teaching them the truths of God’s Word, but it also involves helping them become obedient followers of Christ. This is sometimes known as Christian education, and the purpose is to help people grow to become like Christ in how they think, feel, and act.
I suggest these are the 4 basic purposes of the church—4 targets that our church should be aiming for. Perhaps you could find more, but I don’t think there are less. But now comes the important part: what will we do with all of this?
First of all, I intend to preach on each of these 4 purposes for the next 4 Sunday nights. I want to dig a little deeper into what the Bible says about these 4 areas, and ask you to think with me about what the Bible says about each of them. I think it is vitally important we understand first exactly what each of these targets involves.
Secondly, I need you to communicate with me and with other leaders of the church your thoughts and feelings about these areas. It’s not enough for me to understand these 4 purposes if we don’t all get on the same page.
Finally, I want us to spark discussion on how to work on bring all of these purposes together to produce a target for Gray’s Chapel church—a purpose statement we can unite behind to produce concentration, cooperation, and evaluation, so that we can fulfill the purpose God has for us as individuals, and as a Body of believers.
All of this will take prayer, thought, time, effort, and cooperation, but I really believe it will pay off. I am praying that tonight will not just be another sermon, but that it will be a defining moment in the history of Gray’s Chapel Free Will Baptist church.
This is my vision for our church—a place where people joyfully and meaningfully worship the Lord—a church where people minister to one another in love---a church where we get excited about being a part of winning souls to Christ at home, and around the world---a church where people are growing in their faith and their relationship with Christ. I believe this dream can come true by God’s grace, and your help.
At a civic meeting a minister was invited to give a brief statement about the organization he was a part of. He stood up and began, "I'm with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have our representatives in nearly every parliament and boardroom on earth.
We run hospitals, crisis pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death. We are into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform spiritual heart transplants. Our product is free for the asking. (There's not enough money to buy it.)Our CEO was born in a small town, worked as a carpenter, didn't own a home, was misunderstood by his family, hated by enemies, walked on water, was condemned to death without a trial, and arose from the dead – He and I stay in close contact--I talk with him every day."[ii]
That is our ultimate purpose—to let Christ use us to change this world. Will you pray with me that God will help us rediscover His purpose for our church?
[i]Gordon McDonald, Ordering Our Private World, p. 181 10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas:
[ii] Andy Mason